As had been the case since the earliest days of the Cold War, the Pentagon had air assets on alert the morning of 9/11. But for all of the time and money invested in protecting the homeland from airborne threats, none of the American fighters were able to intercept the airliners that had been hijacked by terrorists on that terrible day.
This exclusive WATM video explores the chain of events, how information was passed between commands, and how jets wound up in the wrong pieces of sky only to arrive over the WTC and Pentagon too late to prevent the attacks or effect the outcomes in any way.
In 2001, Lt. Col. Jason Amerine was one of the first U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan to avenge the 9/11 attacks. He is a Green Beret, the U.S. Army’s elite special forces with five primary missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counterterrorism. Amerine helped tribal leader and future Afghan President Hamid Karzai launch a guerilla war against the Taliban with U.S. help and was instrumental in the capture of Kandahar.
Amerine was injured by friendly fire that killed three other special operators. He received a Bronze Star with Valor and a Purple Heart for his actions. In 2002, he was a special guest a President George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address. The Army made him a “Real Hero” in the video game “America’s Army.” They even made him into an action figure.
In 2014, Amerine presented a plan to California Congressman Duncan Hunter to help with legislation concerning how the United States recovers hostages. Members of Congress have security clearances and are constitutionally charged with oversight. Amerine did not go to the media, put documents on the internet, or violate laws.
But he did hurt the FBI’s feelings.
The Army did not take kindly to Amerine’s disclosure to Congress and initiated what seemed to be a retaliatory investigation into his actions. It turned out the FBI complained to the Army about Amerine’s criticism of the Bureau’s efforts to recover Warren Weinstein, a captured aid worker who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan, Caitlan Coleman, an American who was captured in Afghanistan while pregnant in 2012. Throughout the investigation, the Army prevented Amerine from retiring and even stopped paying him, unlike its treatment of alleged deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who were paid throughout their trials. He was under investigation for almost a year.
“The investigation undermines the right of servicemembers to petition the government, and appears to violate the statutory protections for military whistleblowers,” Hunter said in a letter co-written by California Congresswoman Jackie Speier.
A spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division said of Amerine’s case, “We reject any notion that Army CID initiates felony criminal investigations for any other purpose than to fairly and impartially investigate credible criminal allegations that have been discovered or brought forward.”
A staffer of Representative Hunter’s said a plan was developed in the Pentagon to secure the release of Weinstein. The FBI would have released Haji Bashir Noorzai, a Taliban member in prison in the U.S. for drug trafficking, in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Berghdal, who was released by the time of the investigation into Amerine. Coleman, a U.S. citizen, and her husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle, held by the Taliban, and Dr. Shakil Afridi, a spy for the CIA in Pakistan, held by Pakistan as well as Weinstein. This deal did not take place and Bergdahl was released through a different deal.
CNN reported the key issues with current American strategy as of 2014 was lack of communication by the U.S. government to families of hostages and a lack of coordination about how to free them. If there were more coordination, the FBI could have told the CIA not to strike the house where Weinstein was being held. For the families, the government wouldn’t communicate because they don’t hold security clearances.
President Obama ordered a review of hostage procedures after three Americans, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, were beheaded by ISIS. Representative Hunter’s bill proposed a “Hostage Czar,” a pointman who would coordinate hostage releases with necessary agencies.
Amerine’s West Point colleagues banded together to create a White House “We the People” petition, where 100,000 signatures would oblige the White House to respond to the petition that it provide whistleblower protection and end the investigation.
Rep. Hunter, long a dogged supporter of the military and veterans (himself a former Marine officer and Iraq and Afghanistan veteran), announced Amerine’s retirement with full pay and benefits as a Lt. Col. Amerine was cleared of any wrongdoing and received the Legion of Merit.
“What’s most frustrating is that the FBI refused to work with Jason,” Hunter wrote on his Congressional website. “It’s my firm belief that failures to safely recover Americans held captive in hostile areas is a direct result of that refusal. What’s also frustrating is that some senior Army leaders—including General Mary Legere—refused to give Jason the respect and opportunity to explain what we all knew was true: the FBI wanted Jason out of the way. The easiest thing to do was whisper an allegation to the Army, and the Army took the bait, investigating Jason for reasons that were unsupported by any of the facts.
The tweet is not much of a surprise. Aviation Week and Space Technology, sometimes referred to as “Aviation Leak,” noted during the Air Force One controversy that Trump had been critical of the F-35’s costs during his successful presidential campaign.
Last week, after Trump tweeted about the rising costs of the planned replacement for the VC-25, CNN reported that the CEO of Boeing contacted Trump to assure the president-elect that he would work to keep costs down.
The program — which has been so delayed that the Marines had to pull legacy F/A-18 Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis Monthan Air Force Base to have enough planes to do its mission — has seen costs climb to roughly $100 million per aircraft. The plane is slated to replace F-16 Fighting Falcons, legacy F/A-18 Hornets, A-10 Thunderbolts, and the AV-8B Harriers in U.S. military service.
The state of the Marine Corps F/A-18 inventory may preclude a complete cancellation of the F-35 buy, however. Since Oct. 1, four Marine F/A-18 Hornets have crashed. In the most recent crash, the pilot was killed despite ejecting from his plane.
Trump’s tweet comes as news emerged of the Pentagon concealing a report of $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.
Mattis said in a statement that the strike, which consisted of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting the Shayrat air field on April 6, was a “measured response” to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.
In a break from his predecessor, President Donald Trump quickly authorized strikes against the Syrian government — a first for the United States.
According to Mattis, it was meant to deter future chemical weapons use, while showing the world that the U.S. would “not passively stand by” when such atrocities are carried out.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there could be “no doubt” that Assad’s troops carried out the attack, and autopsies have showed that sarin gas was used. The Syrian government and Russia, its ally, have vigorously denied responsibility.
Russia said that instead, the Syrian air force perhaps carried out a conventional attack that hit a chemical weapons cache controlled by the rebels.
However, as chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta explained to Bellingcat, sarin in storage consists of unmixed components, and dropping a bomb on them would not turn them into a nerve agent.
Meanwhile, Mattis’ statement revealed some details of a damage assessment at the air field. It said the Tomahawk strikes destroyed or damaged fuel and ammunition sites, air defenses, and 20% of Syria’s operational aircraft.
“The Syrian government would be ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons,” Mattis concluded.
Marine Corps boot camp is a slice of hell that turns civilians into modern-day Marines.
With constant physical training, screaming drill instructors, and so much close-order drill recruits eventually have dreams about it, spending 12 weeks at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California can be difficult for most young people.
Having stepped off a bus and onto the yellow footprints at Parris Island on Sep. 3, 2002, one of those young people was me. While in hindsight, boot camp really wasn’t that bad, I thought then that it was the worst thing ever. While writing this post, I thought I would speak in general terms, but since my mother kept all my correspondence home, I figured I would go straight to the source: my original — and now-hilarious-to-read — letters back home.
Drill instructors are the worst.
Having a crazy person with veins popping out of their neck scream in your face and run around a barracks throwing stuff can be quite a shock to someone who was a civilian a week prior. Although I later learned to greatly respect my DI’s, I didn’t really like them at the beginning, as my first letter home showed.
“Our DI’s are complete motherf—king a–holes. There’s no other way to describe them,” I wrote, before including a great example: “Today they sprayed shaving cream and toothpaste ALL OVER the head and we had to clean it up. Yesterday, threw out all of our gear, had to change the racks, and sh– was flying.”
Sounds about right.
My recruiter totally lied to me.
It’s a running joke in the Marine Corps (and the greater military, really) that your recruiter probably lied to you. Maybe they didn’t lie to you per se, but they were selective with what they told you. One of my favorites was that “if I didn’t like my job as infantry, I could change it in two years.” That’s one of those not-totally-a-lie-but-far-fetched-truths.
In my initial letter, I took issue with my recruiters for telling me that drill instructors don’t ever get physical. Most of the time they won’t touch you, but that’s not exactly all the time.
“Oh, by the way, recruiters are lying bastards. They [the drill instructors] scream, swear a lot, and choke/push on a daily basis,” I wrote. (It was day three and I was of course exaggerating).
Mail takes forever to get there.
Getting mail at boot camp is a wonderful respite from the daily grind at boot camp, but letters are notoriously slow to arrive. In my letters home, I complained about mail being slow often, since I’d ask questions in my letters then get a response of answers and more questions from home, well after I was through that specific event in the training cycle.
“Sometimes I write more letters than everyone back home and I have way less time to do it,” I wrote in one letter.
The other recruits were terrible.
I’m sure they said the same thing about me. Put 60-80 people from completely different backgrounds and various regions of the United States and you’re probably going to have tension. Add drill instructors into the mix constantly stressing you out and it’s guaranteed.
Then of course, there’s the issue of the “recruit crud,” the nickname for the sickness that inevitably comes from being in such close proximity with all these different people.
Throughout my letters home, I complain of other recruits not yelling loud enough or running fast enough. “They don’t sound off and we are getting in trouble all the time,” I wrote. No doubt I was just echoing what the drill instructor has given us as a reason for why he was bringing us to the dreaded “pit.”
Getting “pitted” is the worst five minutes of your life.
Marine boot camp has two unique features constantly looming in the back of a recruit’s mind: the “pit” and the quarterdeck. The quarterdeck for recruits is the place at the front of the squad bay where they are taken and given “incentive training,” or I.T. — a nice term for pushups, jumping jacks, running-in-place, etc — for a few minutes if they do something wrong.
But for those times when it’s not just an individual problem — and more of a full platoon one — drill instructors take them to sand pits usually located near the barracks for platoon IT. Think of them as the giant sandboxes you played in as a kid, except this one isn’t fun. For extra fun, DI’s may play a game of “around the world,” where the platoon is run from one pit to another.
Tucked away in a rural corner of western New York is a survivor of D-Day. It is a C-47A Skytrain — an airplane that delivered paratroopers over drop zones around Normandy on June 6, 1944 — that has the distinction of being perhaps one of the few – if not the last – of its kind still in flying condition.
Named Whiskey 7 because of the large W7 painted on its fuselage, the Skytrain was the lead aircraft of the second invasion wave in the skies above France.
“That C-47 is one of our stars,” said Dawn Schaible, media director for the National Warplane Museum, the organization that gives Whiskey 7 a home and maintains it both for flying demonstrations and public viewing.
Skytrains have a storied history. None other than Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander in Europe, called the Douglas aircraft one of the four “Tools of Victory” that won World War II for the Allies along with the atom bomb, the Jeep, and the bazooka.
The museum is proud of the fact that the aircraft is a true C-47, not a DC-3 conversion. The twin-engine, propeller-driven aircraft was built in 1943, one of more than 10,000 produced during World War II.
Skytrains like Whiskey 7 were the standard transport aircraft of the old U.S. Army Air Corps but also saw service with the British, who called the plane the Dakota.
The statistics regarding the Skytrain are impressive. When used as a supply plane, a C-47 could carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo. It could also hold a fully assembled Jeep or 37-mm cannon.
When serving in its role as a troop transport, the C-47 carried 28 soldiers in full combat gear. As a medical airlift plane, it could accommodate 14 stretcher patients and three nurses.
On D-Day, Whiskey 7 transported paratroopers from the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
The aircraft was actually one of the few that made it to the drop-zone assigned to the paratroopers: the town of Sainte-Mère-Église.
After D-Day, Whiskey 7 served for the balance of the war. Missions included towing gliders carrying men and equipment during Market Garden, the ill-fated airborne operation in Holland that was the largest airborne battle in history but which ended disastrously for the Allies.
After World War II, a civilian aviation company purchased the plane as surplus and converted it to an airliner. The plane then flew both passengers and cargo for decades.
Purchased by a private collector in 1993, it was eventually donated to the National Warplane Museum where it was restored to its D-Day configuration in 2005.
In 2014, Whiskey 7 participated in the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion when it flew to France so historical re-enactors could jump from the plane.
The group also included Leslie Palmer Cruise Jr., one of the paratroopers the plane carried on D-Day. According to the museum, he was the last surviving member of his unit who jumped from Whiskey 7 when it was above Normandy in 1944.
Now, Whiskey 7 helps educate visitors to the National Warplane Museum about Operation Overlord and World War II.
Located in Geneseo, N.Y., the museum is a labor of love started by a grassroots group of historic aircraft enthusiasts who fly old war birds and restore airplanes. The museum has more than 15,000 visitors a year who come to view exhibits or attend the annual air show.
“We have amazing artifacts here,” said Schaible. “We figure out how we connect those artifacts with people and help them move beyond the idea that it’s just cool stuff. It’s the men and women and the stories behind the aircraft that make them historical.”
During World War II, there were many ingenious and courageous raids, but only one would come to be known as “The Greatest Raid of All” – the British raid on St. Nazaire.
Since the beginning of hostilities, the German Navy had wreaked havoc on shipping in the Atlantic. With the fall of France, the Nazis had ample facilities on the Atlantic to service their fleet, well away from areas patrolled by the Royal Navy. The British wanted to take this away and force them through the English Channel or the GIUK (Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom) gap, which they heavily defended. To do this, they devised a daring raid that would put the port of St. Nazaire out of action.
The plan, codenamed Operation Chariot, was to assault the port with commandos supported by a converted destroyer, the HMS Campbeltown. The British planned to load the Campbeltown with explosives and then ram it into the dry docks where it would detonate. The commandos would also land and destroy the port while up-gunned motor launches searched for targets of opportunity.
The raiding force consisted of 265 commandos (primarily from No.2 Commando) along with 346 Royal Navy sailors split between twelve motor launches and four torpedo boats.
The raiders set out from England on the afternoon of March 26, 1942, and arrived at the target just after midnight on March 28. At that point, the Campbeltown raised a German naval ensign to deceive German shore batteries. However, a planned bombing by the Royal Air Force put the harbor on high alert, and just eight minutes from their objective they were illuminated by spotlights.
A gun battle between the approaching ships and the Germans ensued. At one mile out, the British raised their own naval ensign, increased speed, and drove through the murderous German fire. The helmsman of the Campbeltown was killed, his replacement wounded, and the whole crew blinded by searchlights. At 1:34 a.m., the destroyer found the Normandie dry dock gates, hitting with such force as to drive the destroyer 33 feet onto the gates.
As the commandos disembarked, the Germans rained small arms fire on the raiders. Despite suffering numerous casualties, they were able to complete their objectives, destroying harbor facilities and machinery.
The commandos on the motor launches were not so lucky. As the boats attempted to make their way to shore, most of them were put out of action by the German guns. Many sank without landing their units. All but four of 16 sank.
The motor launches were the means of egress from the port for the commandos already ashore. The image of many of them burning in the estuary was a disheartening sight.
Lt. Col. Newman, leading the Commandos on shore, and Commander Ryder of the Royal Navy realized evacuation by sea was no longer an option. Ryder signaled the remaining boats to leave the harbor and make for the open sea. Newman gathered the commandos and issued three orders: Do the best to get back to England, no surrender until all ammunition is exhausted and no surrender at all if they could help it. With that, they headed into the city to face the Germans and attempt an escape over land.
The Commandos were quickly surrounded. They fought until their ammunition was expended before proceeding with their only remaining option: surrender. Five commandos did manage to escape the German trap though and make their way through France, neutral Spain, and to British Gibraltar, from which they returned to England.
As the Germans recaptured the port, they also captured 215 British commandos and Royal Navy sailors. Unaware that the Campbeltown lodged in the dry dock was a bomb waiting to explode, a German officer blithely told Lt. Commander Sam Beattie, who had been commanding the Campbeltown, the damage caused by the ramming would only take a matter of weeks to repair. Just as he did the Campbeltown exploded, killing 360 people in the area and destroying the docks – putting them out of commission for the remainder of the war.
The British paid dearly for this success. Of over 600 personnel involved, only 227 returned to England. Besides those taken prisoner, the British also had 169 killed in action. The raid generated a large number of awards for gallantry, one of the highest concentrations for any battle. Five Victoria Crosses, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, were awarded, two posthumously. There were a total of 84 other decorations for the raiders ranging from the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal to the Military Medal.
Close up of HMS Campbeltown after the raid. Note the shell damage in the hull and upper works and the German personnel on board the vessel.
The raid infuriated Hitler and, along with other raids by commandos, caused the Germans to spread troops all along the coast to defend against future raids or invasions. More importantly, the destruction of the St. Nazaire port denied the Germans repair facilities for large ships on the Atlantic coast. Due to the daring nature of the operation and the high price paid for success, the action came to be called “The Greatest Raid of All.”
Politicians — we love to hate them. But occasionally we come across one that we want to know more about. Michigan Democrat Sen. Gary Peters is one of those politicians.
We Are the Mighty caught up with the senator last week to chat about his work for and with veterans, and we came away with five things we think everyone should know about him:
1. Peters is working on veteran issues
Peters served in the Navy from 1993 to 2005. He left the Navy Reserve in 2000, only to return to duty just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Not only has Peters had a heavy hand in incredibly pro-veteran legislation in the two years since he took office, he is actively looking for more ways he can contribute to the veteran community. Case in point: education.
The senator said that he was bothered that service members can spend entire careers in the military doing a specific job, and then find themselves in the civilian world and having to start completely over — either in college or in some sort of training for the very jobs they’ve just spent years doing.
“There should be some sort of translation,” Peters told WATM.
One of the career fields he specifically mentioned was that of EMTs and other first responders. After extensive military training in medical fields, service members find that, upon their return to the civilian world, they are required to do all of that training again in civilian schools.
His idea is to find a way to make sure that those veterans are getting legitimate credit for their experience, rather than as as electives credits.
Bottom line: Peters wants to look at the issues facing veterans and put into action actual solutions to solve them.
2. He knows his stuff
The Michigan Democrat holds four degrees, including two masters, and a law degree.
At 22 and fresh out of college, Peters was named the assistant vice-president of Merrill Lynch — a position he held for nine years. That was followed by a four year stint as the vice-president of Paine Webber (a stock broker firm acquired by Swiss Bank UBS in 2000) before he joined the Navy.
During his time in the Navy, Peters served as an assistant supply manager and achieved the rank of lieutenant commander. His deployments include the Persian Gulf and various locations immediately after 9/11.
Peters served as a Michigan representative to the U.S. Congress from 2009 to 2015.
Bottom line: Peters has spent time both as a veteran and a politician learning the ins and outs of veteran issues.
3. Peters is working on keeping jobs in America
We asked Peters about the Outsourcing Accountability Act, which serves to gather accurate information from American companies on whether they outsource work to other countries, where exactly that work is going, and how many American jobs are being lost to outsourcing.
The bill has wide bi-partisan support.
The question was, did the Peters believe that his bill as introduced to the House would help or hinder veterans who were trying to get jobs?
“The idea is to create more jobs stateside,” Peters told WATM. “This will, in turn, create more jobs for veterans stateside.”
Bottom line: Peters is working to make sure that veterans have better access to American jobs.
4. He’s working on PTSD and other mental and physical health issues veterans face
Veterans who receive less-than-honorable discharges lose all of their benefits, and Peters says he strongly believes that those who received those discharges as a result of subsequently diagnosed PTSD should get an opportunity to have them reviewed.
Bottom line: Peters shows a determination to get as much work done as possible while he serves his constituents.
5. Peters has a sense of humor
Peters was extremely limited in the amount of time he had to chat with We Are the Mighty, but when it was time for him to move into his next appointment, there was still one burning question that had been rolling around the office for days.
Given a choice, would the senator rather go into battle with one horse-sized duck or 1,000 duck-sized horses?
“Absolutely, 1,000 duck sized horses. I like to overwhelm my enemies with sheer numbers.”
Bottom line: He’s familiar with the sense of humor here at We Are the Mighty, and he digs it.
The US Marine Corps for the first time is eyeing a plan to let women attend what has been male-only combat training in Southern California, as officials work to quash recurring problems with sexism and other bad behavior among Marines, according to Marine Corps officials.
If approved by senior Marine leaders, the change could happen as soon as next spring. And it could be the first step in a broader campaign to give male Marines who do their initial training on the West Coast the opportunity to work with female colleagues early in their career.
Marine leaders are also considering allowing women to attend boot camp in San Diego, the officials said. Currently all women recruits go through boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., while male recruits go either there or to San Diego. The combat training comes after troops have finished boot camp, and is done both in South Carolina and at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, but women attend the course only on the East Coast.
The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter because final decisions have not been made, so they spoke on condition of anonymity. The boot camp decision is still under discussion.
Marine leaders have come under persistent criticism from members of Congress because the Corps is the only military service to separate men and women for portions of their boot camp. And only the Marine Corps allows a full half of its recruits to go through initial training without any female colleagues.
Because there are only a small number of female Marines, they all go through boot camp at Parris Island, where they are separated from the men for portions of the training. Congress members have been highly critical of that policy and demanded changes, and the Corps has been reviewing the issue.
Marines have argued that the separation from the men is needed so the women can become more physically competitive before joining their male counterparts. They also have argued that it gives the female Marines the support they need during their early weeks of boot camp. Women make up 8.4 percent of the Marine Corps, and that is the smallest percentage of all the armed services.
But Marine Corps officials are now suggesting that training half of their recruits on the West Coast with no females in their units could be contributing to some of the disciplinary problems they’ve had. Giving the male Marines greater exposure to females during training could foster better relations and greater respect over time, some have suggested.
Over the last several years, Marine leaders have battled persistent accusations that the Corps is hostile to women. The Marines were the only service to formally request an exception when the Pentagon moved to allow women to serve in all combat jobs. That request was denied in late 2015 by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
More recently, the service was rocked by a nude-photo sharing scandal in which Marines shared sexually explicit photos on various social media and other websites and included crude, derogatory, and even violent comments about the women. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is looking into the matter and several Marines have been disciplined.
A Marine task force has been reviewing a range of options and changes for several months to try and reduce the problems.
Months ago, Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, told Congress that the service has been looking at the recruit training issue. But to date, no major changes have been made.
The nude-photo sharing investigation represents a broader military problem. In a report issued earlier this year, the Pentagon said that nearly 6,200 military members said that sexually explicit photos of them were taken or shared against their will by someone from work, and it made them “uncomfortable, angry or upset.” But, across the services, female Marines made up the largest percentage of women who complained.
More than 22,000 service members said they were upset or angry when someone at work showed or sent them pornography. And, again, female Marines represented the highest percentage of complaints from women.
An Air Force veteran has been caught and charged with trying to provide support to ISIS.
Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, an American citizen, was a former avionics specialist and Air Force veteran.
“Pugh, an American citizen and former member of our military, allegedly abandoned his allegiance to the United States and sought to provide material support to ISIL,” Assistant Attorney General Carlin said in a press release from the Department of Justice.
“Identifying and bringing to justice individuals who provide or attempt to provide material support to terrorists is a key priority of the National Security Division.”
“As alleged, Pugh, an American citizen, was willing to travel overseas and fight jihad alongside terrorists seeking to do us harm,” said Assistant Director in Charge Rodriguez.
“U.S. citizens who offer support to terrorist organizations pose a grave threat to our national security and will face serious consequences for their actions. We will continue to work with our partners, both here and abroad, to prevent acts of terrorism. This investigation demonstrates the importance of law enforcement coordination and collaboration here and around the world.”
Pugh flew from Egypt to Turkey in order to cross the border into Syria; however, Turkish authorities denied him access to the country and he was forced to return to Egypt. He was subsequently deported from Egypt back to the US.
In the US, Joint Terrorism Task Force agents conducted a search of Pugh’s electronic devices on January 14, 2015. On his laptop, the agents found internet searches for information pertaining to how to cross into Syria, parts of the Turkish border controlled by ISIS, and downloaded ISIS propaganda videos.
Pugh was arrested on January 16, 2015 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He has been in custody since his arrest.
The US has been leading a military coalition against ISIS since August 2014. The anti-ISIS coalition has carried out airstrikes against the militant organization in both Syria and Iraq.
ISIS has recorded brutal execution videos of its captives since it conquered vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq in June 2014. In August 2014, ISIS released a video showing the execution of US journalist James Foley. This was the first video the group released of the execution of a western hostage.
In December 2015, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced that the Pentagon would open all combat jobs to women. Why was this such a massive deal? Because it shattered the U.S. military’s final “brass ceiling.” Even though women have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past 15 years, thousands of jobs remained off-limits until this year. We’re pretty sure that the badass women on this list would approve of the decision. Why’s that? Because they had to cross-dress in order to fight on the frontlines.
1. Hannah Snell
On June 2, 1750, a Marine named James Gray made the following announcement in a London pub:
“Why gentlemen, James Gray will cast off his skin like a snake and become a new creature. In a world, gentlmen, I am as much a woman as my mother ever was, and my real name is Hannah Snell.”
As you can probably imagine, the gentlemen were gobsmacked by the news that their good friend James was actually a chick named Hannah Snell. Never heard of her? You’re in for a treat. Born in 1723, Hannah was an Englishwoman who disguised herself as a man so she could fight for King and Country. How’d she alight on such an unconventional career path? Her husband ran out on her after their infant daughter died. Snell heard a rumor that he was in the military, so she borrowed her brother-in-law’s identity so she could give him a well-deserved ass whooping. She later discovered that her hubbie had been executed for murder. But that didn’t stop her from pursuing an adventurous military career disguised as James Gray. Snell eventually sold her story to the London publisher Robert Walker, who published her account, The Female Soldier, to great acclaim. It’s a page-turner.
2. The Chevalier d’Éon
The Chevalier d’Éon | Wikimedia Commons
The Chevalier d’Éon was a famous French spy with androgynous physical characteristics and a razor-sharp mind. Born in 1728, D’Éon played a key role in negotiating the Peace of Paris in 1763, whichformally ended the Seven Years’ War between France and Britain. In addition to being a skilled diplomat, D’Éon was, by most accounts, one of the more fascinating figures of the 18th-century. Hesuccessfully infiltrated Empress Elizabeth of Russia‘s court by posing as a woman, but publicly identified as a man for the first 49 years of his life. In 1777, he began dressing as a woman—claiming to have been female at birth. When Louis XVI told the decorated spy to pick a gender and stick to it,D’Éon defected to England. London society welcomed D’Eon with open arms and she dressed as a woman for the next 33 years. A post-mortem autopsy reportedly concluded that D’Éon was anatomically male. Was the Chevalier transgender? It’s hard to say. Here’s what we do know: theChevalier d’Éon was a grade-A badass.
3. Loretta Janeta Velazquez:
Loreta Janeta Velázquez as herself (right) and disguised as “Lieutenant Harry Buford” (left)
Did you know that as many as 400 women cross-dressed so they could fight on the frontlines during the Civil War? All of these women were hardcore badasses, but Loretta Janeta Velazquez took it to a whole ‘nother level. Born in 1824 to a rich Cuban family, she got super annoyed when her husband joined up with the Confederates in 1861. Why? Because she wanted to go with him. She found a novel way of getting around the problem:
“Not content with life alone, Velazquez decided to use her wealth to finance and equip an infantry battalion, which she would bring to her husband to command. She cut her hair, tanned her skin, and went by the name Lt. Harry T. Buford. She went on to fight in various battles, including Bull Run and Shiloh, but her gender was twice discovered and she was discharged.”
What’d she do once her cover was blown? She became a cross-dressing spy. Some people are just more interesting than the rest of us.
Tensions between the U.S. and Russia are dangerously high. Both sides are complaining that the other has ignored military norms in international airspace and at sea, both have accused the other of violating treaties designed to prevent large-scale war, and both are developing systems to counter the other’s strength.
But, while Russia works on new tanks and bombers and the U.S. tries to get its second fifth-generation fighter fully operational, each side is also looking to a nearly forgotten technology from the Cold War, nuclear-armed trains.
The idea is to construct a train that looks normal to satellite feeds, aerial surveillance and, if possible, observers on the ground, but carries one or more intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads.
The trains, if properly camouflaged, would be nearly impossible to target and could launch their payloads within minutes.
Russia got the missile cars to work first and fielded an operational version in 1991. In the early 1990s, America built prototype rail cars for the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison missile system and tested them, but then the Soviet Union collapsed and the project was cancelled.
The missile cars and fuel tanks are to be disguised as refrigeration cars and will be indistinguishable from regular trains if the weapons live up to the hype. Each will be able to deploy with its own security force and missile personnel for up to 28 days without resupply.
But, budget problems that were biting at the Pentagon then have continued to hound it, and mobile launchers are expensive. Plus, most Americans don’t like the idea of nuclear trains running under their feet any more than they like the idea of nuclear trucks driving through their local streets.
The feasibility of Russia’s plans is also suspect. After all, the Russian Defense Ministry is running into worse budget problems than the Pentagon. It’s ability to fund a nuclear-armed train while oil prices are low and its economy is in shambles is questionable at best.
Right now, America’s main counter to Russian nuclear trains, and any other intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, appears to be its missile shields in Europe which could intercept many outbound nuclear missiles.